Ban Hollywood's least inspiring line


the gripe


If there's one phrase Hollywood should ban, it's this one: "Inspired by a true story."

Take the Lead, which opens in theaters today, was, we are informed at its opening, inspired by true events. The movie centers on a man named Pierre Dulaine, played by Antonio Banderas, who starts an after-school program at a New York high school that teaches the worst students, those who chronically end up in detention, to ballroom dance. By doing so, he teaches them not only how to move, but also how to work together, respect themselves and their peers and -- potentially -- pull themselves out of the social abyss toward which they're plummeting.

Yes, there was a Pierre Dulaine, and he started a program called Dancing Classrooms. But he started it in an elementary school, and here's betting nothing there was as simple or cliched as what ends up onscreen in this movie.

There's nothing wrong with basing a movie on fact, restructuring and re-imagining elements for dramatic purposes; Shakespeare was doing that in his plays centuries ago. Certainly no film should be judged solely on how well it corresponds to reality. But by proclaiming that a feature film is "Inspired by a true story," its makers are suggesting they've told the story the way it really happened. That's the job of documentarians. And, curiously enough, the real story of Pierre Dulaine was told last year by director Marilyn Agrelo in Mad Hot Ballroom.

Chris Kaltenbach

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